Santa Barbara, California

Known as the “California Riviera,” in the last few decades, Santa Barbara has become known for more than being a city for summer vacations for the rich and famous or just too much of temptation for filmmakers ignore. With its majestic mountains, nearby islands and countless beautiful beaches, Santa Barbara has become synonymous with natural beauty, thriving arts scene, delicious wines and outdoor activities.

The city offers many fitness options such as diving, surfing, kayaking, fishing, volleyball, rock climbing and walking. There are also over 100 producers of wine and many may argue that the wineries here produce the best wine in California. It is very easy to become passionate about this charming city that reflects the combination of the historic cities of Europe and the classic and rustic side of Mexico.

In addition to stunning beaches, breathtaking landscapes, and sporting activities, the city is also home to many Brazilians. Musician and composer, Silverio Ferreira, was one of the first Brazilians to arrive in Santa Barbara in 1975. He explained to me that at the time, the only other Brazilians in the city were associated with soccer. In fact, he himself had also played on important Brazilian teams and received an offer to study at Boston University because of his abilities with a soccer ball. However, Boston College wanted him to dedicate himself entirely to soccer, which left him little time to pursue his other passion: music. He ultimately decided not to dedicate all of his talents exclusively to one or the other and instead he stayed in Santa Barbara where he created a partnership with Jose Neto, the guitarist of Traffic. Today, after more than 30 years, Silverio divides his time between producing movie soundtracks and working as a financial consultant.

Percussionist and Capoeira Master Mariano Silva

One of the things that we know for certain is that most of the Brazilian musical talent living in the city has directly and indirectly helped to introduce “bossa nova” culture to Santa Barbara, beginning with Airto Moreira and Flora Purim (who now lives in LA), Teka, Pyatan and Contra-Mestre Mariano among others. When Mariano Silva arrived in Santa Barbara, he immediately knew that he was in a place that would allow him to share his artistic part of Brazilian culture: percussion and dance. Mariano felt that Brazilians in Santa Barbara were still having difficulties adapting to the city and American life.

However, with their “ginga”, charisma and talent, little by little, they have an important role in the blossoming of Brazilian culture in this California seaside city. Mariano has been a “capoeirista” since 11 years old, was raised listening to the afro-brazilian rhythms of Bahia, and also was percussionist and dancer of the Folkloric Ballet of Bahia. He recently started a new band called Prakantar, which has an Afro/Jazz/ Pop influences.

Also part of the Brazilian footprints in Santa Barbara is the yoga studios. Yoga is becoming increasingly popular in Brazil and now Santa Barbara has a few great yoga teachers, and a studio – The Yoga Center at the Michelterena St. that is owned and operated by Lais and Silvio. We can mention also The Yoga Soup, which is owned by Eddy, an American who has declared his passion for Brazil and instructs many Brazilian students, including his girlfriend and located at Park Way close to the Public Park Lot on the Gutierrez St.One of the things that we know for certain is that most of the Brazilian musical talent living in the city has directly and indirectly helped to introduce “bossa nova” culture to Santa Barbara, beginning with Airto Moreira and Flora Purim (who now lives in LA), Teka, Pyatan and Contra-Mestre Mariano among others.

Bossa Nova/Brazilian Jazz Singer Teka

When Mariano Silva arrived in Santa Barbara, he immediately knew that he was in a place that would allow him to share his artistic part of Brazilian culture: percussion and dance. Mariano felt that Brazilians in Santa Barbara were still having difficulties adapting to the city and American life. However, with their “ginga”, charisma and talent, little by little, they have an important role in the blossoming of Brazilian culture in this California seaside city. Mariano has been a “capoeirista” since 11 years old, was raised listening to the afro-brazilian rhythms of Bahia, and also was percussionist and dancer of the Folkloric Ballet of Bahia. He recently started a new band called Prakantar, which has an Afro/Jazz/ Pop influences.

Caio arrived in Santa Barbara in 1997 and worked in various jobs until he became a taxi driver. Through his interaction with many influential and important people, and with good business sense, he felt there was a need for luxury taxis in the city. With much determination, in 2005 he invested in the opening of Ocean Cab Company, which transports affluent passengers around the city in 8 Lincoln’s and 2 Limousines. Caio recommended to us the Sevilla Restaurant on Chapala Street, where one can feel the French-Brazilian influence in the décor and a “carnival culture” style in the bar/lounge. The menu also features the famous Brazilian “moqueca” and once in a while the restaurant offers the traditional “feijoada”.

Since we are talking about restaurants, despite the fact that there is still no Brazilian restaurant in Santa Barbara, you can find a little bit of Brazil in other places such as the Café Buenos Aires. Here, beyond the traditional tango and good Argentinean food, in the bar, you can sip on a capirinha and listen to bossa nova. Reds Coffeehouse, owned by Caio’s American wife and located in the funky part of town (between Garden Street and State Street), features free wireless internet access, good espresso that reminded me of the coffee in Brazil and a large patio where once in a while they have a churrasco (Brazilian BBQ) in the afternoons with cultural activities generally provided by the Ginga Multicultural Center located near the restaurant. In the Restaurant Cuscatlán in the upper part of De La Vina Street, you will find cans of Brazilian soda “guaraná” and natural “coconut water” in a new eco-package from Brazil. If you are looking for Brazilian appetizers and sweets an option is Lica, a Brazilian chef who graduated from a culinary art school at Santa Barbara City College.

Caio arrived in Santa Barbara in 1997 and worked in various jobs until he became a taxi driver. Through his interaction with many influential and important people, and with good business sense, he felt there was a need for luxury taxis in the city. With much determination, in 2005 he invested in the opening of Ocean Cab Company, which transports affluent passengers around the city in 8 Lincoln’s and 2 Limousines. Caio recommended to us the Sevilla Restaurant on Chapala Street, where one can feel the French-Brazilian influence in the décor and a “carnival culture” style in the bar/lounge. The menu also features the famous Brazilian “moqueca” and once in a while the restaurant offers the traditional “feijoada”.

Ginga, that was founded 2 years ago by Vanessa Isaac and Daniel Chin, offers dance classes, capoeira and different artistic and cultural workshops. Vanessa, who arrived in 1995, never imagined herself living in Santa Barbara. She didn’t even know that such a city existed. Her mission was to simply leave Brazil to discover new places and she thought about living in Los Angeles, New York or London.

Vanessa has been involved in dance, theatre and music since she was a child and she thought that the best place to pursue these talents would be in a major metropolis. But, through the irony of destiny, she had a neighbor who was a diplomat who had lived in Santa Barbara for 20 years and told Vanessa that the city held a special place in his heart. Vanessa initially thought that the city would be a good place to live for 6 months to learn a little more English and to look for a “big” city to live in.

But, her plans changed and just kept getting better and better when first met Helena Hale and then Randy Tico. Already living in Santa Barbara, Helena Hale is a 75-year old actress who treated her like a granddaughter and encouraged Vanessa to pursue her artistic ideas. About 5 months after, she met musician and future husband Randy Tico. Vanessa said that, “at first, not everything was coming up roses. The culture was very different! We Brazilians are generally more jovial, noisier and more connected to one another just to begin with some of the differences. Brazilians dance samba wherever they want and sing in whichever manner they choose and not to leave samba to die! The way of being is different.” She continues by saying, “however, I owe much of my life to this city, to the theatre group, to the dance classes and to my first international audience.” Today, Vanessa travels a lot, but she continues to stay in her adopted city.

Daniel Chin, who arrived in 2000, told us that to live in Santa Barbara was a dream come true. As a capoerista, surfer and resident of São Paulo, he had and idea of what he would find in Santa Barbara. It was the perfect city: safe, beautiful, not too far from Los Angeles, with good style and a young crowd divided between UC Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara City College. When he arrived he tried to perfect his English and he dedicated himself to teaching and promoting capoeira. Chin said that, “It was and still is very gratifying to have the opportunity to spread a little of Brazilian culture in the land of Uncle Sam. I saw that each day more American and Latino residents in Santa Barbara identified with our culture. The image of the Brazilian is good: a hard and dedicated worker”.

Today, Daniel Chin dedicated integral time to capoeira and has begun 2 social projects with childcare givers. One is the Miracle Latter joined with People’s Self Health Housing that helps children who do not have access to after school program; the other is the Catalino School working with the Diabetes Resource Center of Santa Barbara. He also was a promoter with his friend Paulinho of the famous Monday Brazilian Night at Sharkeez, which lasted for years and still in the memory of many folks. In his spare time Chin likes to do what he has always dreamed of doing in California: being outdoors.

“For surfing we have 2 points,” Chin says, “El Rincon, a few miles south of Santa Barbara and Jalama Beach, a Santa Barbara county park good for camping and located about 30 miles north of Lompoc. For hiking we have wonderful options, just north of freeway 154 you will encounter a waterfall and a river that is a visual hallucinogenic. There is kiteboarding on the East Beach between Leadbetter and Devereaux streets and it is only recently that we began playing “footvolley” on Butterfly Beach in Montecito.” And it is fact that, on this beach, between the months of May and September, you will find many Brazilians.

In the city you can find many young Brazilians from middle to upper class studying in the UCSB or the SB City College. Most just come to study and are here for 6 – 24 months before they go back to Brazil. In the Orkut community (a social networking site likes MySpace.Com) you’ll find an almost exclusive group of Brazilians who love the city and/or have already lived or visited there.

It is good to remember that UCSB and SB City College are among the schools most chosen by Brazilians for International Exchange Study Programs. What attracts them to this area, besides the excellent scholarships, is the fact that they are near the ocean (UCSB has their own private beach), the good surfing spots, the mountains, the rivers, the excellent infrastructure of the city, and recommendations from previous students about their positive experience.

Some of these Brazilian students, and others living in this city, look for casual employment such as valet parking, pizza delivery, and restaurant servers to help pay the bills. In the case of the female Brazilian, a good number of them become baby-sitters for upper and middle class families and are often very requested for to be well educated, diligent and charismatic. Long time SB resident, Ângela Monlleo owns an agency that provides families with the occasional and full-time Brazilian baby-sister and/or housekeeper for many families in SB County.

Teresinha Landry, a nurse who works in the cardiac sector in one of the hospitals adds that lately Americans have shown interest in learning the Portuguese, and she feels that the Brazilian community is not very united and she hopes for a better integration in the future. Tetê, as she is better known, sees the culminating moments of Brazilian culture during the Solstice Festival and Multicultural Festival in the summer and the Brazilian Carnival in February. On the plus side, she said that there are many academies offering classes with Brazilian rhythms and swing. On the negative side, there is still no authentic Brazilian restaurant in Santa Barbara.

The jiu-jitsu instructor Rodrigo Clarck, who arrived in the end of 2002 after having worked in a ski resort in Lake Tahoe, believes that the influence of Brazil in the city is connected with the art, music and sport. Rodrigo always had the deep desire to start his own Jiu Jitsu academy. Before arriving in Santa Barbara, he was attending a Law School/University in Brazil and had not yet defined in mind what he wanted to do professionally. After many conversations with family and friends he decided to move on and open his own business in this city. He mentioned that the start was a bit difficult, but he went forward and made the decision to work hard to make his dream come true. After a few months, the things began to flow and Rodrigo got passionate for an American. As many Brazilian says “Love to the first sight!” Today, well established and with an academy on Mason St, Rodrigo tries to face the things naturally, and take negative experiences as a lesson in maturity.

Rodrigo’s colleague Ricardo “Franjinha”, a pioneering Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructor in Santa Barbara and Pan American Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Champion in 2006 in L.A, affirms that unfortunately there are not many Brazilians with and interest in taking his class and adds that most of them arrive initially in SB with the intention of studying or making money, and join parties and outdoor activities. “To practice Jiu-Jitsu is not priority for them” he says. However, many Americans have demonstrated an increasing interest.

Still this year Franjinha opens the sixth Parragón JJ branch in Agoura Hills (between Camarillo and Los Angeles). Ricardo “Franjinha” says that: “the Brazilian businesses are growing fast if we compare it to several years ago. Today we have 2 jiu jitsu academies, many places that offer Capoeira classes, a Brazilian girl that distributes Brazilian bikini’s to locals stores, another who sells affordable jewelry and knick-knacks from Brazil, a sales representative for a moving/container company who shipping packages to Brazil, and SoulBrasil magazine.

Actually, I know some Americans who – know a bit more about Brazil thanks to SoulBrasilMagazine”. It was also interesting to sit at the Couchéz Club and listen to the history of Haroldo Souza and how he arrived in Santa Barbara. Today a successful entrepreneur, proprietor of Brazil Stone who sells Granite and Marble, and one of the partners of the Couchéz, Haroldo arrived at the Miami airport in 1984. Being 19 years old and bringing his wife Elizabeth, he bought a map and quickly looked for a place to live and “boom”, he pointed his finger to Santa Bárbara and said to Elizabeth “this is the place where we going to live and raise our children”. After that, they had to face a 5 day journey on bus before arriving in Santa Barbara. He washed plates in restaurants, bought and sold used cars, set up packages for Brazilians students still living in Brazil with an interest in studying in Santa Barbara and deal with Brazil/EUA student programs.

After remodeling his house, his thought about importing and selling granite and marble – and voila, Brazil Stone was born. The reality is that not so long ago we could count on one hand how many Brazilians lived in Santa Barbara. Now, you can hear Portuguese spoken on State St. every day. Still, the numbers are not many. But when compared to previous years, Brazilians and Brazilian culture are much more present on the Santa Barbara scene. These Brazilians point to harmony, the climate and the different leisure options as the best part of living in Santa Barbara, and the high cost of housing as the worst. In the “California Riviera” you come across many Brazilians in fields of commerce, media, sports, health, art, music, and public service. All of them are working hard and striving for a better life. Some of them prosper more than others, but all are spreading Brazilian magic and happiness throughout the community of Santa Barbara.

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